James Moore: Here's what they should be called: a whinge of bankers

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The Independent Online

Outlook Shall we think of some collective nouns for bankers? A "rip-off"? A "greed"? How about a "mis-selling"? No, got it, a "bonus". Just as accurate could be a "whinge". The £1 trillion pumped into the sector in terms of direct and indirect subsidies hasn't stopped them complaining about people being mean.

A case in point is the introduction of the

EU's bonus cap, which prompted much wailing, gnashing of teeth, and talk of a mass exoduses. Except that the latter isn't happening, at least not according to headhunter Robert Half.

The US firm says it hasn't seen significant numbers of candidates wanting to quit London to escape the cap, which limits bonuses to 100 per cent of salary, 200 per cent if shareholders approve (they will).

The point about the cap is that the senior bankers caught by it may actually do rather well out of its introduction, thanks to the measures taken by their employers to get around it. The first of these has been to hike basic salaries – and what's not to like when your employer does that? Basic salaries are not only pensionable, they can't be taken away. So none of that nasty clawback that regulators are so fond of imposing if you slip up.

It's true that the performance linkages supposedly attached to old-style bonuses were always questionable; bonus pools never seemed to fall as much as they ought to have done during bad times. But fall they did. Fixed salary doesn't fall at all. In addition, there are now "special allowances" as an extra bung. Which you don't actually have to do anything to get, other than be senior enough.

The cap probably does prevent the real rainmakers from making silly sums, but these weren't paid all that often anyway. Perversely, with higher guaranteed salaries plus allowances, all but a handful of bankers could end up making more than they used to.

They clearly know what's good for them. Best complain very loudly about the cap all the same. Otherwise someone in Brussels might notice.